In another push to expand the ambit of Aadhaar, an inter-ministerial committee recommended to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that checking Aadhaar number should be made mandatory for the registration of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) marriages in India to tackle desertion and other marital issues.
The proposal relating to Indian passport holders getting married in India is aimed at protecting the rights of women who are deserted by their NRI husbands or become victims of domestic violence and dowry harassment abroad.
"It has been proposed that Aadhaar be a must-have for registration of NRI marriages (in India)," said a source privy to the contents of the report submitted to the MEA on August 30.
According to PTI, the Unique Identification Authority of India is working on a policy for the Aadhaar enrolment of NRIs, Overseas Citizens of India and Persons of Indian Origin. At present, all residents including Indian nationals and foreigners with valid visas can enrol for an Aadhaar number.
The panel also recommended that India amend its extradition treaties with various countries to include domestic violence as a criterion for seeking the custody of an accused.
An official in the ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) said tracking an offender in NRI marriages was often difficult.
"The main issue is that serving of notice is difficult because you don't have the address," he said.
The report is only limited to NRIs and not anybody else of Indian origin living abroad, the source said. "We are only dealing with those who hold an Indian passport," the source added.
Former Union Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, one of the first politicians in India to raise the issue of desertion of wives by NRI grooms, said the recommendations to make Aadhaar mandatory for NRI weddings would finally provide some relief to the affected women and their families.
"It has taken 20 years and finally a serious strategy has been devised to handle the issue. I started taking up such cases in 1997. Most of the times, I faced callous approach from the politicians but now I hope that things will reach their logical conclusion as Union minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj has been very serious to help the victims," said Ramoowalia while speaking to Times of India.
The committee also suggested that the National Commission for Women (NCW) be made the nodal authority for looking into disputes arising out of such marriages. According to an NCW report, about 1300 such cases were registered by its NRI cell between 2005 and 2012.
The panel mooted that special teams consisting of officials of the MEA, Home Affairs and WCD be deputed in "10-15 countries" from where such cases emanate. Apart from the UK, US, Canada and Australia, teams should also be posted to African and West Asian nations, it said.
The expert panel on NRI marriages was constituted last year under the chairmanship of retired Justice Arvind Goel, former chairman of the NRI Commission of Punjab, and comprises officials of the ministries of WCD, Home Affairs, MEA and the department of Telecommunications.